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Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival will showcase the rich array of traditional artists from across the country who have received the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest award for excellence in the folk and traditional arts.
Every year since 1982, the NEA has awarded National Heritage Fellowships to a broad range of traditional artists in recognition of their excellence and their contributions to our nation’s diverse heritage. More than 400 individuals and groups from every region of the United States have been honored by this prestigious award.
Fellowship honorees include African American quilters, Appalachian ballad singers, Ukrainian American textile artists, Native American basket makers, Cambodian American dancers, Mexican American musicians, and much more. These artists are not only great masters of their tradition; as teachers, innovators,and advocates, they have made significant contributions to the living cultural heritage of their communities. Together they represent a remarkable portrait of the great diversity of cultures and artistic traditions that enrich our nation.
The Folklife Festival program will provide a powerful opportunity to tell the story of the American experience, demonstrating how “the arts can connect us with our heritage, bring us together as a community, and deepen our sense of belonging,” in the words of NEA Chairman Jane Chu. Exemplary artists from a wide variety of cultural groups and regions will share their music, dance, crafts, and stories with each other and the public. Performances, demonstrations, and workshops will also include family and community members to show that traditional arts are rooted in community life, and that it takes inspiring efforts to pass traditions onto future generations.
The 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will take place in Washington, D.C., June 29 through July 4 and July 6 through 9 on the National Mall between Seventh and Twelfth streets, adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle.
NEA folk and traditional arts specialist Cheryl Shiele explains the process of designing the new hand-crafted medal awarded to National Heritage Fellows
Celebrating the NEA’s fiftieth anniversary, the Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert at the 2016 Folklife Festival featured extraordinary musicians from across the country who have received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship